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Uncomplicated Cystitis: When to Culture, How to Treat and Recommended Prevention Strategies


Acute uncomplicated cystitis is often readily recognized by patients as a routine bladder infection.  Uncomplicated cystitis rarely progresses to pyelonephritis and urosepsis even if untreated. The primary goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms. If a patient presents with pain, urgency and frequent urination

  • Determine if a patient may have pyelonephritis as urine cultures are indicated in all cases of upper urinary tract infection (UTI)
    • Culture: Costo-vertebral angle tenderness | Fever | Chills | Flank pain | Nausea/ vomiting | Recurrent/ persistent symptoms despite treatment
  • In the absence of signs and/or symptoms of pyelonephritis, cultures are not required
  • Consider urinalysis in specific circumstances such as
    • Postmenopausal women who may have intermittent dysuria or urge incontinence without infection
    • Women without a previous history of UTI
  • Women with previous history and recognize UTI symptoms can be treated empirically without urinalysis

Antibiotic Therapy

Note: The following recommendations apply to nonpregnant women | There has been concern regarding the use of nitrofurantoin and sulfonamides in the first trimester due to possible risk for birth defects

  • First-line therapy 
    • Trimethoprim-Sulfamethoxazole (TMP-SMX) 160-800 mg PO BID x 3 days
    • Fosfomycin 3 gm PO single dose
    • Nitrofurantoin 100 mg PO BID x 5 days
    • Consider beta-lactam for pregnant patients
  • Fluoroquinolones: Reserved for situations in which other agents are not appropriate  
    • Ciprofloxacin 250 mg BID x 3 days
    • Levofloxacin 250 mg BID x 3 days

Note: FDA recommends the following

FDA has approved label changes that reserve the use of fluoroquinolone antibacterial medicines when treating acute bacterial sinusitis (ABS), acute bacterial exacerbation of chronic bronchitis (ABECB), and uncomplicated urinary tract infections (UTI) for patients who do not have alternative treatment options


UTI is the most common infection encountered in the outpatient setting. By age 32, half of all women will have had at least one UTI. Recurrence rates are over 25%. Fluoroquinolones are effective, but the recommendation is to avoid as a first-line medication to prevent future resistance and maintain these medications as a second-line treatment when needed.


  • Risk factors include
    • Sexual intercourse | Use of spermicides and diaphragm | Previous UTI | New sexual partner | Increasing parity | Diabetes | Obesity | Kidney stones | indwelling catheter
    • With increasing age, consider vaginal atrophy, pelvic organ prolapse and bladder retention
  • No association between
    • Pre/ postcoital voiding | Daily beverage consumption | Frequency of urination | Delayed urination | Wiping patterns | Tampon use | Douching | Hot tub use | Type of underwear
  • Consider formal urologic evaluation for women with
    • Persistent hematuria | Multiple early recurrences of cystitis with the same bacteria
  • Patients with pyelonephritis with severe/worsening illness or persistent fever 48 to 72 hours after initiation of antibiotics
    • Image to evaluate for stone, abscess or obstruction
  • Treatment of uncomplicated cystitis should take into consideration local antimicrobial resistance patterns
    • Resistance rates higher than 15 to 20% will require a change in antibiotic class
    • Beta-lactams such as cephalosporins and amoxicillin are less effective due to increasing resistance
  • Nonantimicrobial prevention of recurrent UTI
    • Change spermicides or consider other birth control option | Topical estrogen if menopausal (local may be more beneficial than oral)
  • Note: Do not screen or treat asymptomatic bacteriuria in nonpregnant, premenopausal women

Learn More – Primary Sources:

CDC: Adult Outpatient Treatment Recommendations | Antibiotic Use

ACP: Appropriate Use of Short-Course Antibiotics in Common Infections

USPSTF: Screening for Asymptomatic Bacteriuria in Adults

FDA Drug Safety Communication: FDA updates warnings for oral and injectable fluoroquinolone antibiotics due to disabling side effects

CDC: Antibiotic Use among Women with Urinary Tract Infections in First Trimester of Pregnancy and Birth Defects